Friday, April 14, 2006

Today is Tuesday – Auction Day

Today is Tuesday which means it is auction day. It’s the day we can “ship” our lambs and turn them into cash. I know this will upset many of you out there and if you are a vegetarian, you may want to stop reading right here. There isn’t a day when we load the lambs onto the trailer that we don’t feel very sad. But the honest fact of the matter is that if you have 120 ewes, the next year there will be at least that many babies. Exponentially, it can quickly become a nightmare (that’s also why we have 7 cats).

When I was in college I was a vegetarian for a couple years. I ate a lot of salads, eggs, rice and beans – tofu was barely available back then. I was asserting my independence. Then one day on a trip home from Oregon, I stopped in Massachusetts to meet Mark’s family and see where he was from. His mom Betty was a real Yankee. I have never since met anyone quite like her. She raised 3 boys by herself after her husband died (the boys were 4, 8 and 12 – yikes!) and managed to hold onto their legacy (“the farm”) while holding down a full time job and paying the taxes. You just have got to admire that. (And all 3 of the boys are happy she did.) I digress.

The first night I was visiting, she plunked down a large cut of beef in front of us, some kind of potato dish and some broccoli. Being a vocal 20 year old, I said I hadn’t eaten meat in 2 years. She looked at me with those wary eyes (who’s this chick my son brought home now?) and politely said to me – “This cow lived out there in that field. We fed him every day. He ate a lot of green grass and he had a really good life.” I ate the steak. That was the end of that.

Auction Day - Part Two

Mark and I took Julia this afternoon down to the auction. After the initial sadness of loading the lambs, we just couldn’t miss seeing how much money they would bring. It is very important for children to know where their food comes from and to learn the cycle of life - Julia seems comfortable with it. Most Americans think their protein comes from the store wrapped in plastic packages. We here at Cold Comfort Farm know better. We are fortunate enough to enjoy grass fed lamb and pork throughout the year thanks to the animals we care for and our enormous chest freezer.

When Mark and I first got our four Romney sheep almost 25 years ago, I was insistent that we do as much as we could ourselves. So when it came time to eat the first ram lambs our ewes had birthed, I decided we should take care of the butchering. It was a foggy cold November day in New England. Mark and I took his mother’s shotgun outside. It was quick. I burst into tears and ran back into the farmhouse. It took a while to compose myself and when I went back outside I found our poor little lamb hanging from the bucket of the old rusted yellow tractor. I had to swallow hard and get over it because my yet to be husband didn’t know what to do next. With our trusty “Raising Sheep the Modern Way” beside me, I managed to skin and take care of that lamb. I’m not sure what happened to Mark – he disappeared. But this suburban girl from northern NJ prevailed.

After that fateful day, we found a good butcher who kindly and humanely turns a few lambs into food for us. The rest go to the auction in Whately and if you live somewhere on the east coast, you may have enjoyed one for Easter dinner. I did learn something that day – most of all that I don’t mind paying a butcher. And secondly, that you can do anything you put your mind to.

Kristin’s really good grilled butterflied leg of lamb

Ask your butcher to butterfly a leg of lamb for you – preferably American raised. A couple hours before grilling, peel some garlic and cut the cloves in half. Make tiny slits with a sharp knife in the flesh and insert the garlic. Using at least a cup of nice Dijon mustard, slather both sides of the leg with the mustard. Generously sprinkle the meat with some coarse salt and some fresh ground pepper. Sprinkle about 1/4 cup of herbes de provence on both sides of the meat. Let it rest in the fridge til you are ready to grill. Light the grill and barbeque as per your usual routine. We prefer out lamb rare and this doesn’t take long. Butterflied lamb is good because the meat is different thicknesses making the doneness of the meat differ to fit all your guests tastes. Pull it off the grill a little early because it will continue to cook. Let it rest for about 10 minutes. Then thinly slice and serve.

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